‘Work From Home’ is prompting executives to search for inspiration in the great outdoors.

We have all been there; the final Zoom call of the day, fatigue painted on everyone’s faces, and not a fresh idea in sight. Whilst lockdowns around the world have offered increased flexibility and balance to those able to optimise their work from home environment, what they have lacked, is inspiration.

Now, as travel restrictions ease, international borders reopen and travellers regain their confidence, new travel patterns are coming to the fore. 

Airbnb’s trending destinations for Summer ’21 are heavily skewed toward locations that offer access to natural attractions – forests, beaches, mountains, and national parks. Their inventory selections are also changing toward full homes rather than room-shares.

As people adjust to their newly regained ‘independence’, remote settings become a viable alternative to traditional city living and allow for access to activities that promote good health and vitality…the very things people have been yearning for over the past months.


The change from a fixed location to flexible work has also stimulated new thinking about what a career constitutes today. Increased risks associated with full-term employment in an unstable economy have stimulated the gig-economy and entrepreneurship tremendously, with double digit year-on-year new business registrations in many leading markets, according to Forbes. The US alone saw a 95% new business registration increase in July 2020, when contrasted with July 2019 figures.

What does this all mean?

We are in an age of reinvention, where travel itself is changing, from the motivations that spark it to destination choice and the means of travel embraced. Of course, people are changing too. Many are recalibrating their values, family lives, and personal health, which had been drawn into imbalance by hectic work schedules.

Impact on business travel and professional development

Traditionally a significant contributor to inbound arrivals, business travel is also not what it used to be, and forward-thinking consultants are reinventing the experience of workshops, seminars, and strategic breakaways by combining the yearning for time in nature, with facilitated personal development and strategic offerings.

Bringing entrepreneurs and professionals together for what are described as ‘wilderness leadership retreats’, Tom Fels of Animarem, an organisational development consultancy, reflects on the opportunity presented by the pandemic bounce-back. “Alignment between work and personal values has become a non-negotiable, and so we have created a setting for people to re-imagine their personal and professional futures, as individuals, or as teams, embedded in sustainable ecosystems that provide their own sources of learning and inspiration.”

This integration of nature-based activities into itineraries is supported by a recent report from the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) that reflected an anticipated 72% of adventure travellers would be incorporating nature and outdoor activities on their next trip.

Fels sees the increasing synergy between leisure and business travel as an emerging niche, saying “the lines have become so blurred between our family and business lives that it makes sense to offer experiential opportunities to executives that enable them to focus on strategic planning in a landscape that is totally conducive to expansive thinking. For us, Africa provides this platform for free-thinking in abundance, and so we have recently launched our next experience.”

Remedying the nature deficit

A study published by the National Trust into nature-deficit disorder last year revealed long-term  “dramatic declines in children’s relationship with the outdoors and wild places”.

Development consultant David Williams argues that executives and companies may be suffering from the same ailment and suggests that “the great outdoors can inspire people and organisations to change and grow” within environments that offer the setting for a sustainable vision. Indeed, it has been the case for creative organisations like Google, Sony and Vodafone, in his experience.

What we are no doubt seeing, is a return of consciousness to the role of leaders in society, and increased value being placed on the relationships demonstrated in natural systems as fuel for thought, as we all chart our next chapters through the rewarding experience of travel.

To explore Animarem’s wilderness leadership retreat

To learn more about emerging Airbnb trends.

To read more on the growth of entrepreneurship on Forbes

To visit the article on Nature Deficit Disorder

Founder of Animarem (‘give courage to purpose’), Tom Fels is a transformative leader, change catalyst, and entrepreneur, committed to helping purposeful people and organisations achieve their highest potential.

He is the Southern Africa lead for the B Corp movement, a Transformational Travel Council Ambassador and B Tourism lead for Middle East / Africa. Previously CEO at Singita, he is an author and speaker on conscious business, regenerative visions for the future of travel, and transformational leadership.

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